Become a Member
Support the programming and educational initiatives of Idaho Public Television by joining today.
home ready to learn k-12 adult education

IdahoPTV Schedule

Local Productions

Stay Curious


IdahoPTV Learning Services


Civil Rights Movement
by Julie Ingram
Teresa Robel
Idaho State University

Grade: 6th
Time Allotment: 7 class periods
Subject Matter: Social Studies, History, Literature, and Math

Through the activities presented in this unit, students will become familiar with the conditions of the African Americans in the Deep South during the 1950's and 1960's and Jim Crow Laws.

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to: 

  • understand segregation and the approaches taken to desegregate.
  • identify major events and people involved in the civil rights movement during the 1950s.
  • identify legislative and government programs that aided in eliminating segregation.
  • sequence historical events in chronological order.
  • demonstrate research skills using Internet sources.
  • design a monument to honor the Little Rock Nine.
  • interpret information and make inferences.
  • analyze facts and draw conclusions.
  • identify and discuss points of view.
  • identify cause and effect.
  • apply critical thinking skills.


From the National Standards for History, grades 5-12

  1. Distinguish between past, present, and future time. (1A)
  2. Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story: its beginning, middle, and end (the latter defined as the outcome of a particular beginning). (1B)
  3. Interpret data presented in time lines and create time lines by designating appropriate equidistant intervals of time and recording events according to the temporal order in which they occurred. (1E)
  4. Identify the central question(s) the historical narrative addresses and the purpose, perspective, or point of view from which it has been constructed. (2C)
  5. Read historical narratives imaginatively, taking into account what the narrative reveals of the humanity of the individuals and groups involved--their probable values, outlook, motives, hopes, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. (2E)
  6. Appreciate historical perspectives--(a) describing the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their literature, diaries, letters, debates, arts, artifacts, and the like; (b) considering the historical context in which the event unfolded--the values, outlook, options, and contingencies of that time and place; and (c) avoiding "present-mindedness," judging the past solely in terms of present-day norms and values. (2F)
  7. Draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources including: (a) photographs, paintings, cartoons, and architectural drawings; (b) novels, poetry, and plays; and, (c) folk, popular and classical music, to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narrative. (2I)
  8. Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears. (3B)
  9. Analyze cause-and-effect relationships bearing in mind multiple causation including; (a) the importance of the individual in history; (b) the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs; and (c) the role of chance, the accidental and the irrational. (3C)
  10. Hypothesize the influence of the past, including both the limitations and the opportunities made possible by past decisions. (3J)
  11. Formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past. (4A)
  12. Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films, oral testimony from living witnesses, censuses, tax records, city directories, statistical compilations, and economic indicators. (4B)
  13. Identify issues and problems in the past and analyze the interests, values, perspectives, and points of view of those involved in the situation. (5A)

Media Components :

America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1956 (Eyes on the Prize) Program 1, produced and directed by Judith Vecchione. Videocassette Dist. By PBS Home Video, 1986.

Web Sites

  • Civil Rights Time Lines
These web sites examine the events that make up the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1950's and 1960's. Students can explore these web sites and determine for themselves the important events and corresponding dates for their own time line.

  • Brown Vs. Board of Education
    This web site investigates the reasons for the case that reignited the Civil Rights Movement in 1954. The students are able to explore the conflict, reasons and outcome to the Brown vs. Board of Education case
  • Design a Monument
    A web site featuring photographs, headlines and commentary about one of the country's most famous struggles for integration in public schools. The students will read the narrative and view the photographs to learn about the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • A bucket of new crayons and one with old crayons
  • A bucket with pencils with erasers and one without erasers
  • Recycled paper and new paper
  • Cutouts of circles and triangles with safety pins
  • Anticipation Guide (Appendix A)
  • Book- Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • Pictures depicting Jim Crow Laws (ex. white/color water fountains)

Prep For Teachers
Prior to the teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson. Load any plug-ins necessary to run the Web sites. Cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point. Everyday the teacher will read from the book Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals.

Introductory Activities
Pass out anticipation guide. Have students fill out guide and then discuss the questions.
Divide the class in half. One group will be the triangle group and the other will be the circle group. Explain to the students that they will be participating in an experiment that will last for one day. Apply the following steps:

  1. Triangle will be given brand new crayons for class activities. -Circles must use old broken crayons.
  2. Triangle will use pencils with the convenience of an attached eraser. -Circles will have access to only primary pencils without any erasers causing them to scratch out mistakes on their work.
  3. Triangle will have access to new paper for projects. -Circle will be permitted to use only recycled scraps of paper.
  4. Triangle will be given large workspace in classroom. -Circle will be cramped into a smaller space.
  5. Triangle will be dismissed from class first. -Circle will be dismissed from class only after triangles has been dismissed.
    **After lunch have the groups switch places.

Learning Activities
Day 2
Discuss the term civil rights and what the students know about the civil rights movement. List the students' responses in a Semantic map on the board.

Discuss the "Jim Crow" laws- state laws that mandated racial separation in schools, parks, playgrounds, restaurants, hotels, public transportation, theatres, restrooms, and so on. The allocation of funds for every segregated facility demonstrated unmistakably who was entitled to the best and the worst. Everywhere segregation was a symbol of supposed black inferiority.

Show the students the pictures that denote the Jim Crow laws.
Introduce the Plessey vs. Ferguson case and the term "separate but equal" to the students. The Plessy decision set the precedent that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal." The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as: restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. Sixty-four years later, in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the "separate but equal" doctrine was struck down.

Check for comprehension: Have students re-evaluative their answers on the anticipation guide. Discuss changes and whether they liked being judged by symbols.
Discuss the meaning of the term "time line". Show the students examples of time lines from school texts and library online sources.
Divide the class into small groups. Have students create time lines about aspects of the civil rights movement. Students might use library sources or these suggested Web sites:

Have students present their completed time lines to the class.
Revisit the Brown vs. Board of Education decision when the "separate but equal" doctrine was struck down.

Hand out: "Discover the Brown vs. Board of Education Decision" activity sheet and then asked to explore the web site: and fill out the activity sheet. Check for Comprehension: Discuss as a class, the activity sheet and the information discovered on the web site.

Simulation Activity
Set up two rows of seven chairs. Place another chair in front of the left row (for the bus driver). Place the white section sign on the chair behind the bus driver. Place the colored section sign on the back of the fifth chair. Have some students fill up the white section of the bus. Have other students fill up the colored section. One of them should be Rosa Parks who is in the row behind the colored section sign. The bus driver demands Rosa Parks and the other person seated across from her to get up. Other students are observing. Rosa refuses, but the other student gets up.

Have students discuss what they are feeling.

Hand each student a boycott flyer. Discuss what a boycott is - semantic organizer.

Insert Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1956, Program 1 into your VCR.
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, and ask the students to raise their hands when they hear the results of the vote to continue the boycott. START the tape when the screen shows a man walking down a hallway right after court scene and a man's voice says " In Mississippi, a few black people stood up to the system, but it was not enough. They're challenge was easily beaten back. Three months later in Alabama, when many stood together… PLAY tape until newspaper article about Martin Luther King, Jr. "The keynote speaker at Hole street church…" STOP the tape.

Ask students:

  • If they would be willing to go to jail for what they believe in.
  • Do you think that the boycott was an appropriate measure to get their point across? Why or why not?

FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION  Have students rigth down two consequences of the Boycott. START the video when the voice says "what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms" and right after Rev. Ralph Abernathy's interview. PLAY tape until right after Martin Luther King Jr.'s interview is over "Be willing to face the consequences whatever they are. And if filled with fear, he can not do it". STOP the tape.
After experiencing the simulation bus ride and the video, students will have better knowledge of how and why Montgomery had a bus boycott. Discuss as a class the video and bus simulation and have them either get into groups of two or three, or work alone to create their own bus boycott flyer.

Culminating Activity
Ask students to think of a time when they felt brave and courageous. Remind them that a courageous act can be anything from resisting peer pressure to saving someone's life. Encourage volunteers to share their experiences. If students do not have a personal experience to share, ask them to think of someone they know or a character they've read about who they felt was courageous. Invite them to describe the event and tell how they think that person may have felt.

Then ask students if they know what a monument is. Tell them that a monument is a memorial stone or a building erected in remembrance of a person or event. Help them name a few monuments, including statues and markers in local parks, national monuments in Washington, D.C., and others such as Mount Rushmore and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Ask students if they know what any of these monuments represents.

Distribute student project sheets and then direct students to the web site
"Way Back: On the front lines with the Little Rock Nine" to read about school integration. You may want to read the text aloud and explain any unfamiliar words or phrases

Invite students to work in pairs to view the Web site and complete the project. Have art materials, such as drawing paper, colored pencils, and markers, available for students to use in designing their monuments.
Check for Comprehension: Have students share their monument with the class and then display for the school.


In the video, a woman comments that she walked eight miles every day. Have students calculate those eight miles into feet, inches, kilometers and meters. For a realia experience, have students go outside and actually walk just one mile so they can feel how far just one mile actually is.

Students can write in a journal everyday about how they feel after the teacher reads a part of the book: Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals.

Have the students watch a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech and then write what their dream for humanity would be.

Complete further research on the bus boycotts. Have students pretend to be reporters interviewing those individuals who took part in the bus boycotts. Students should then write a play and act out the play.

Community Connections

  • Invite people in the community to come to class and talk about what happened in our area during that time period.
  • Students could interview people in their family or in the community who were alive during the Civil Rights Movement and share their findings in class.
  • Have students conduct a community survey to determine if racism is still present in today's society.

Search more than 3,000 free lessons and activities on PBS TeacherSource!

Type in a keyword or words, then click go.

Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans


The National Teacher
Training Institute
is made
possible through the
generous support of

Cisco Foundation Logo

GE Fund Logo

Thirteen WNET New York Logo


Idaho Public Television Homepage